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Pressure Makes us Stronger

Thursday, 23 November, 2017 - 2:54 pm

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in Israel, a land that exuded holiness. And in this week’s Torah portion we read about the first time one of our Patriarchs – Jacob – will move outside of Israel for a period of 22 years.

And it is outside of Israel, in Charan - a land of corruption, that Jacob will get married and build a family - the foundation of the Jewish People.

The Rebbe poses the following question: Would not Israel have made a better place for Jacob to have raised his children? Would not Israel have been the ideal hot house for the future Jewish people to be conceived and nurtured? Why of all places, Charan?

Says the Rebbe, the olive yields its best oil when pulverized. To produce gold we need a fiery furnace where the intense heat on the raw metal leaves it purified and precious. Jacob did not have an easy life, but it made him a better man and it made his children better children.

There was once a young man who had just come out of military service in the army. Upon his return, his Rabbi greeted him with the platitude, "So, Joe, did the army make you a man?" Joe responded, "No Rabbi, the army made me a Jew!" Apparently he had encountered more than a fair share of anti-Semitism in the military and it actually strengthened his resolve to live a Jewish life. Today he is the proud father and grandfather of a lovely, committed Jewish family.

Life isn't always smooth sailing. But it appears that the Creator in his vast eternal plan intended for us to experience difficulties in life. Evidently, we grow from our discomfort and challenges to emerge better, stronger, wiser and more productive people. There is always a purpose to pain. As our physiotherapists tell us: “No pain, no gain”. It would seem that, like the olive, we too yield our very best when we are under pressure.

One of the reasons we use a hard boiled egg on the Seder Plate on Passover is to remind us of the festival offering brought in the Holy Temple. But, the truth is that any cooked food would do, so why an egg? 

One of my favorite answers is that Jews are like eggs. The more they boil us, the harder we get. We have been punished and persecuted through the centuries but it has only strengthened us, given us courage, faith and hope. At every point in our history we have always emerged from the tzorres of the time stronger, more tenacious and more determined than ever.

Jacob raised a beautiful family in less than ideal conditions. Please G‑d, we should emulate his example. Wherever we may be living and in whatever circumstances, may we rise to the challenge and live successful lives and raise happy, healthy Jewish children who will build the future tribes of Israel.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom 

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